THE CHARM-O-METER: If futuristic science one day had time to pursue its hobbies -- and science is so busy, constantly solving and addressing stuff, that we're not sure it does -- we'd like to hope that it might invent the Charm-O-Meter. The Charm-O-Meter would take readings on how charming a town is, or various parts of a city, and report back on the area's quaint-a-tude. ("Quaint-a-tude," of course, is based on whether tea houses and quilt shops and strolling musicians and flower boxes are in high numbers in a particular region.) But one place that would never need a Charm-O-Meter, because the readings would be off the proverbial charts? Solvang and the entire Santa Ynez Valley. The cute is high in the Windmill Capital of California pretty much from January 1 through Dec. 31 -- or any other two dates you'd like to pick -- and we don't need a scientific meter to tell us so. And such a meter would break, absolutely crack, come October, when dozens of scarecrows make their debut in the area. No, seriously -- how much quaint-o-sity can you take?
IF YOUR ANSWER... is "plenty" then be in Solvang and Buellton and Los Olivos and the other burgs of the valley from Friday, Oct. 10 through Monday, Nov. 10 for the yearly Scarecrow Fest. The hay- or clothing-stuffed figures will appear outside various businesses, looking spooky or funny or strange or topical or, yes, charming as all get-out. Are they free to see? They are. Are there voter ballots? For sure. Is the spirit one of fun and not too competitive? Well, it is a bit competitive, right? As it should be, if you spend a few hours building a clever scarecrow. For places to spy the 100+ places to spy the autumnal icons -- and this is across five towns, mind you -- follow the hay trail here. And, yep, you can leave that Charm-O-Meter at home. This event is charm-the-boots-off-a-scarecrow cute.